Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Erik Caponi

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Erik J. Caponi

Erik "DoctorSpooky" J. Caponi

Who are you?
I'm Erik, I'm a designer, and I enjoy your list of easy-to-answer questions.

What's your favorite color?
I like purple. It's the color of the Decepticons, and therefore the best color there is.

Do you have pets?
I have a cat with thumbs. I'm pretty sure that one day he's going to figure out how to hold a knife, and then we're all screwed.

Are you married?
I've noticed that game developers have a habit of dating and/or marrying teachers. I am not an exception to this trend.

Which of those two links would you rather use to describe how you earn your living? Link 1 / Link 2
My day is actually more like this.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
I seek the holy gra- wait, that’s not right. I’m a designer. Some people are confused about what a designer actually does and well, it can be confusing. It’s especially confusing considering that there is no standard definition of designer — it varies from company to company and team to team. Here at Bethesda, designers work under Emil (not to be confused with level designers, who work under Joel to build environments) to produce the content of the gameplay.

What previous projects have you worked on at Bethesda and elsewhere?
I was here for the last bit of Oblivion, where I did a number of things to help polish and balance the game. I was the designer on two of the downloadable content packs, I was one of the three designers on Nights of the Nine, and I worked on quests in Shivering Isles. Before coming to Bethesda, I was a mission and game designer for The Matrix Online. I’ve also worked on a handful of things that never made it to store shelves, but such is the way of the industry

What have you drawn on for inspiration in developing Fallout 3? Books, movies, music, etc would be fine, if you don’t want to name any games.
There was a whole thread dedicated to this, and I feel like it was pretty comprehensive as far as calling out the excellent post-apocalyptic media that is floating around out there. For my part, post-apocalypse has always been an interest of mine. Growing up as a kid in the 80s, at the tail end of the cold war, the end of civilization was always something that sort of hung over our heads, which I think is probably the reason that the genre clicks so well with me. And because I’m a media junkie, I’ve pretty much read/watched/listened to/played anything to do with post-apocalyptic settings.

So, when the time game to prepare for Fallout 3, I did brush up on some of the higher points in the genre, but I’ve also looked outside of it for inspiration as well. To that end, I’ve been reading Oscar Wilde, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hunter S. Thompson for wit. I’ve read a number of Cold War books, non-fictional accounts of combat in various wars, and general American history books (I’m in the middle of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Very good. Read it.). I’m also hugely into comics and I’ve always felt that the writing in comics and the writing in games is very closely related, so I’ve been reading The Walking Dead, Y: The Last Man, Wasteland, DMZ (I highly recommend Vertigo’s DMZ to Fallout fans), 30 Days of Night (and its sequels), as well as rereading Transmetropolitan, Preacher, and When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.

You can also see some of my thoughts on music in this thread.

And oh, look, the coffee is gone. But, before I go, people keep mentioning Arcanum, which I am a huge fan of. I recommend The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana to anyone who enjoys Arcanum, or Victorian Steampunk in general.[…]

What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)
My… my avatar seems to be telling me something about this question… what is it, Admiral Ackbar?

Seriously though, I’m not a fan of putting media into genre categories. I think they’re limiting and unnecessary, and I don’t make my choices in movies, books, music, (and especially) games based on them. If I did, I would have missed out on a lot of good stuff by now. So, to answer your question, my personal favorite types of games to play are good ones, I don’t care if they’re RTSs, RPGs, MMOGs, ROUSs, or any other combination of capital letters. What matters to me is that in the end, all of the elements work together to make a great game.

Now, what makes a great game? That’s a very long conversation that I, frankly, don’t have time for. But really, I think we can all agree on one thing: Fallout is a great game.

How much do you love the fallout franchise (GOBS, CRAPLOADS, etc)
I love Fallout more than is reasonable — I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve played through Fallout 1 and 2, but I’ve gone through each two or three times a year since they first came out. I originally picked up Fallout on a whim because someone had told me it was a sequel to Wasteland (Yes, I know it isn’t, but we didn’t have words like "spiritual successor" back in the dark days of the 90s). And the rest is history. Well, history and a whole lot of hours in front of my computer.

If you were drop-kicked into the fallout universe, which character would you like to be?
I’d be one of those random skeletons that are sometimes laying around the wasteland. I’m a pretty modern city-oriented guy, so unless I managed to trick someone into finding me food, water, and shelter, I’d be screwed.

Who knows, maybe I’d get lucky and someone would throw me into one of the vats before I died.

What’s your favorite burger? (Big Mac, etc)
Well, I’m a vegetarian, so I prefer multi-purpose food powder from the Civil Defense Food Kit.

What was (or is) your favorite sci-fi television show?
Right now, Battlestar Galactica. It's everything that I ever wanted in a SciFi TV show: it's dark, gritty, and realistic. It's nice to see Science Fiction that doesn't seem like it's trying to apologize for the rest of the genre. January 2008 can't come fast enough.

What is your favorite (good or hilariously bad) zombie movie?
I'm from Pittsburgh originally (woo, Stillers), so I'm gonna go with the home team: the original Dawn of the Dead. I actually love the remake as well but before I moved away, it was nice to regularly go shopping in the mall of the walking dead.

Considering that much of the game will probably be in a wild wasteland, do any of you spend much time hiking, camping, etc, and if so where?
As I said before, I start to fade away Back to the Future-style when I get far away from a city. I do actually enjoy reading about outdoor survival. I just haven't had a lot of chances to practice it. It seems that this summer, several friends have plans to drag me into the woods and pour beer down my throat until I stop complaining about the lack of wireless internet.

Any system shock 2 fans in the house?
System Shock 2 is one of the finest games ever made by human hands.

What's the last game you bought? Did you like it?
I bought Settlers of Catan for Xbox Live Arcade on Friday night. I'm impressed with it. I was a little skeptical about how the board game would translate to the Xbox 360 controls, but it was done well. Before that, I bought Lord of the Rings Online, which I've quickly become addicted to. While much is its interface takes many lessons from World of Warcraft, I find its content to be a lot more engaging.

What games are you looking forward to on the horizon?
Two Worlds. It's an ambitious title and I'm anxious to see if it lives up to its claims. Age of Conan. And of course, Bioshock.

Other than videogames, what are your interests? (Board games, reading, music, etc)
Other than games? I'm confused. There are things other than games? I kid. When I'm not working, I ride motorcycles, I work out 3 to 5 times a week, I cook, I read, I cause trouble, I organize reunion events for my friends who are scattered around the world, I go to music festivals, I watch football (Woo, Steelers), I show my face at a lot of punk and metal shows, I chase pigeons, I try to make the world a bit more surreal for strangers, I brew mead (but I'm not very good at it... yet), I roll my eyes at tourists, I yell at people in traffic, I watch a ton of movies (you can take the kid out of film school...), I visit any one of the eight million tourist locations in DC, and I generally keep myself busy.

Have you played the VanBuren Alpha? If so, what were your feelings on it?
I played it a while ago. Obviously, it's pre-release software and needed a lot of work so it's pretty unfair to judge it as it is, but I'dve bought it. But then again, I payed full price for Brotherhood of Steel just because it said "Fallout" on it, so my purchase might not mean much.

Feelings towards guns?
I like guns. They make loud noises. Sometimes I go and pay money at a gun range to wage war against my mortal enemy: paper targets. My only problem with guns is when people use them in stupid ways. Actually, that's a problem with people, not with guns.

Wow. I hadn't expected to find other Warmachine/Hordes players around here, of all places. Cool. Do any of the other crew at Bethesda play?
We have a group that gets together once a week to play. We're always trying to convince more people around here to join it. It seems to be working.

[On playing Fallout: BoS] How many showers did it take just to feel unclean after that?
The thing is, I didn't know anything about Brotherhood of Steel at the time. I heard "they're making a Fallout action game" and thought "I'd rather it was an actual sequel, but an action sounds like it could have potential". I knew very little about the game itself beyond its Fallout ties, so I was in a rare position of actually being sort of excited about the game before it came out. So I picked it up it the day it came out, and merrily went home to give it a try.

By the end of the night, I had popped my eyes out with a spoon and shoved two small rodents in the bloody sockets in the hopes that they would eat through to the part of my brain that contained the memory of the previous few hours. That didn't work, so I filled my eye sockets with cement and continued to play. Still though, I did finish it -- I had to. I kept hoping that it would get better... never did.

Could any of the devs tell me what type of character they enjoyed creating and playing in fallout 1 or 2?
I enjoy being a deadly sniper with a charming wit. Speech, sneak, small guns for skills. High charisma, agility, and perception for stats. The Gifted trait is a must. As I level, I take all of the AP-related perks and go for the eyes, Boo.

Do you feel the idea of a Fallout version of BG:DA was inherently bad, or just the execution for BoS?
A little of both. Well, a lot of both. I admit that I had not heard much about Brotherhood of Steel before is came out, but what I had heard worried me. I had apprehensions about a Gauntlet-style action game based on Fallout from the start, but even still, if the execution of the idea had turned out to be amazing, I would have never remembered the worry that I had in the beginning. As it was, the execution was less than amazing.

The first dev that talks about films and art from German Expressionism (and Brazil, the retro futuristic master piece, and the Flash Gordon serials) should win a badge.
Metropolis, M, Der Golem, and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari are among my favorite films. And they said that film school would never get me anything. Where's my badge?

I would like to ask the devs what humor they usualyQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png enjoy and which type of comedy. What artists?
I'm a huge fan of stand-up comedy as a method of performance art. My personal favorite comedians are the ones that transcend joking around and encourage people to examine their own lives through a comic filter. I'd have to say that listening to Bill Hicks when I was young actually changed my outlook on life.

As far as just straight up humor goes, I'd go with Mitch Hedberg, Richard Pryor, (pre-1990) Robin Williams,

Has there ever been a time where you and a higher-up didnt quite see eye-to-eye on certain subject?
This happens at every job, in every company, everywhere.

This is a question to both fizzbang and DoctorSpooky. You've both stated that you're from Pittsburgh originally. Were you acquainted prior to the formation of the FO3 team? Work on any earlier (maybe amateur) projects together by chance? PnP maybe?
Fred and I have known each other for about ten years or so. We met through gaming groups at some of the Pittsburgh-area colleges so, naturally we've been in countless tabletop games together.

Do you think Fallout 3 could be the pivotal game that unites old-school gamers with the younger generation of console gamers?
Time has an interesting effect on all art and I think that the idea that we have moved past a "Golden Age" is erroneous. There are a lot of interesting and amazing things going on right now that probably won't be recognized until ten year have passed and everyone is saying "Remember the Golden Age of the 2000s? Those were great times. Not like the games now.". The games you listed were great games, no doubt, but they're great now because they've withstood the test of time and until that time has passed, we won't really know what games of this generation will be the classics of the next one.

What was the first video game you've played? If you could, would you make a sequel for it?
I couldn't begin to tell you what the first one actually was. The first game I can actually remember playing is the Star Wars arcade cabinet.

And another one, more personal: what do you think of Russia? FO had many cold-war influences, you know
I'm actually pretty interested in the history and imagery of Soviet Russia. I particularly love the style of the revolutionary propaganda posters of the early 20th century. The cold war era is fascinating to me, and how we managed to not blow each other up, I'll never really know.

As for Russia itself, I've never been there. I can say one thing in Russian: "Arf, arf, says the dog". The Russians I've met have been admirable drinkers and amusingly insane. It's certainly on my list of places I plan on visiting.

What countries have you ever visited? Which ones did you like or dislike?
Sadly, I'm not nearly as traveled as I'd like to be. I've visited almost every state in the US, but apart from here I've only been to Canada and Scotland. I absolutely adore both countries though, particularly Scotland (and the tasty deverage named for its people). As an American (even living in DC), it's sometimes difficult to have a sense of history but in Scotland, I felt surrounded by it. Everywhere you went, you had a sense of everyone who had lived there before.

What are you're thoughts on being evil in games, or just not being the classic hero?
It depends on the game. It belongs in some, but in games where I am handed a blank slate and told to make my own choices, I absolutely want to be able to make evil ones. Or at the very least, morally ambiguous ones. I liked how morality was handled in Baldur's Gate and Planescape:Torment, where evil wasn't always presented as an obvious choice, but there were more selfish responses in the dialog that weren't always obviously evil. But, if you established a pattern of behavior, it started to affect you and push your alignment and NPC reaction in a certain direction. As far as KOTOR goes, I think that the dark/light side points worked while for the black and white morality of the Star Wars setting, but as a player, I found that having my path to evil highlighted for me wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be. Calling someone a jerk can add flavor and voice to my character, but it isn't evil. Calling someone a jerk, cheating them out of their life's savings and driving them to suicide is. So, if evil is a choice in a game, I prefer it to be a meaningful one.

Have you played any Troika game, for instance, Arcanum or Bloodlines, did you enjoy them?
I mentioned being a fan of Arcanum earlier -- I love steampunk settings. However, it seems that they almost always fail in the marketplace, which is unfortunate. It seems hard to convince the general public that magic can exist outside of medieval fantasy settings. Steampunk just may be stuck as a niche setting, I mean, even Will Smith couldn't get a big audience to buy it.

As a long time played of White Wolf games, I thought that Bloodlines was great, especially since the other games based in the World of Darkness were not go great. Unfortunately, the games tragically flawed. I think that it needed some more polish on it, but it seems that in their downward spiral, Troika just didn't have the manpower to give the game the love that it needed. But, it was good enough that I could look past the flaws. I enjoyed the dialog, character, and experience systems a lot. Combat was so-so, but it's not why I picked up the game in the first place.

It's a shame that Troika went down, I had really enjoyed the things they had done and was looking forward to what they were planning for the future. Ah well, it's a rough business, you know?

I noticed that everytime someone mentions a 'table top game', it turns out to be a minis game like Confrontation, W40k, Necromunda... don't you guys play any other type of games? Lke Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Caylus or Settlers Of Catan?
I think most people hear "tabletop game" and think "tabletop RPG". Usually, what you're talking about people lump in with board games. And yes, myself and many others here enjoy a lot of board games. On game nights, when I'm busy playing Warmachine/Hordes, I do notice people playing games of Settlers and Carcassonne. I enjoy a number of board and card games, myself and the contents of my game shelves at home are too numerous to list. I have a habit of buying silly little card games just because the tend to have concepts that amuse me.

By the way, if you own a 360 and can get Catan from Xbox Live, I recommend it. It's a really good translation of the game.

Will you come out of the sandbox to post in other threads, when you are finally allowed to talk about Fallout 3?
Of course, time permitting. I love talking to you crazy kids, but we do have a game to make.

How do you feel about the negative comments and predictions taken by some of the Fallout community? Has it affected your opinions in anyway? What do you feel towards such pointless and nonconstructive comments?
I do read most of the forums and of course, I'm very aware of the things that people have to say. Behind a lot of the negative comments, there are some good ideas and genuine criticisms, so I try to peel away the negativity and see those for what they are. And of course, there are some people who just enjoy being negative. Having written my share of vitriolic diatribes, I certainly see the appeal. Righteous anger just feels... good. But, the best thing to do with those people is to tune it out and not take it personally.

You learn to develop a thick skin pretty quickly when you're in game development. You have to. No matter what you do, no matter how many people praise it, and matter how many people buy it and love it, somewhere, someone thinks that it sucks and they just can't wait to tell you all about it. And thanks to the power of the internet, they can. Frequently. But, it can serve as a not-so-gentle reminder that no matter what you do, there's always room for improvement.

I remember some of you mentioned you like books by Kurt Vonnegut. So to those who read and like his books: what are your favourites made by him?
Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, and Mother Night.

If you could make one major change to the video gaming industry, what would it be?
I would love to see more support for smaller low budget titles in the mass market. We have a good system in place for the summer blockbuster-type "Hollywood" games, but it seems that we have yet to a breakout independent title that makes it through to the public eye. I think that we're headed in a good direction, but I would like to see a viable publisher that concentrated on indie games for wide release. Sort of like what Miramax did for independent film in the mid-90s.

Wholesale destruction of East Coast landmarks must surely remind people of 9/11. Can you tell anything about the process of making this design decision?
Well, I can't speak to the second part of the question, but as for the first: I'm not really worried about it. At some point, we have to move on. As a society, we can't keep jumping at shadows in fear of the memory of a single national tragedy. 9/11 has already been so politicized that I think the most respectful thing that we can do at this point is to put it behind us and go on with our lives. Tragedy happens, it's a fact of life. Those of us who witness it and survive can either accept it and continue to live, or be dragged down by the weight of memory.

And as a wiser man than myself once wrote: "So it goes."

What is your favorite mod for Oblivion?
I've used BTMod, OOO, and the one that turns the moon into the Death Star. There was also one that I've forgotten the name of that I enjoyed. It added all sorts of crazy scripted spells that made it very easy to break the game, but were a lot of fun to walk into the middle of the Imperial City and play around with.

What's your favorite thing about Oblivion?
I enjoy the freedom of Oblivion. It's something that I enjoyed about the Elder Scrolls since I first popped in the discs for Arena. From the top down, the games have always tried to place as few restrictions as possible on the player. Don't like this quest? Do another. Don't like the damage on that sword? Change it.

Oh, also, I enjoyed that there were no Cliff Racers in Oblivion. ;)

Hypothetically speaking, if you were forced to do something for the final game that you didn't agree with, would you later (assuming F3 is modable) write up a mod to fix the problem?
Well, like I said, the ability to change what you personally don't like about the game is one of the strengths of it. So, with that in mind, it depends. Would I do it to spite the person above me? No. That would be unprofessional. While we as individuals have much more creative freedom here than a lot of studios give, at the end of the day, we can be overruled. Part of working well in a team environment is working with the understanding that there is someone with the ultimate word over the entire project, and that's how it should be. Someone needs to oversee the whole -- too many people making high level decisions always results in a muddy final product.

Do you developers think about how games, just as books and movies, affects how people think? How do you think the Fallout games has changed/ F3 will change the way people look at the world?
I certainly hope so. I view games as art, just like film and literature. However, I think that as an artistic medium, it has yet to really find its footing. Games are an extremely young art form but remember, it was forty or fifty years before the public accepted that movies could be anything more than mindless entertainment. So, I think when we use that metric, games are a bit ahead of the curve. As time goes on, and as more and more people accept the idea of an interactive narrative, I think that yes, a game will be just as likely to influence people as films and the written word are today.

What do you guys think of Mark Morgan's music in Fallout 1 and 2? Do you believe the soundtracks were important in capturing the feel of Fallout?
Don't think that I don't know where you're going with this. :)

Yes, I think that the soundtracks of Fallout 1 and 2 did an excellent job in setting the mood and tone.

Are there any game soundtracks you like to listen to outside of the game (for example, I'm always listening to the music from Medieval 2: Total War and the other total war games)?
There are a lot of them. I think that my favorite soundtracks are Metroid: Prime and Halo. I also like to listen to the Katamari Damacy soundtrack because it's just plain fun.

Do you believe whether or not a game can be considered 'good' is directly related to its financial success? Why or why not?
Not at all. There are plenty of games that sell a ton of copies despite being crap and there are plenty of good games that fade into obscurity. Short term sales can be driven very well by marketing and hype. However, hype will only get you a short boost in initial sales, it's quality that will drive those sales weeks and months into the future. I think that a good game is far more likely to be selling well six months after its release, whereas a bad game that lived purely on hype will drop to nearly nothing very shortly after its release.

Ok, easy question. For you RPG nuts, what's the most obscure RPG you've played thus far? Most obscure RPG... I guess we'll lump tabletop in there... Uhm... I don't know. What counts as obscure, let alone most obscure? I mean, outside of this forum, you probably won't find many people who've even heard of Wasteland, so what is obscure among people to revel in the obscure?

Did constructive opinions of fans expressed on forums etc. have influence on the game design?
For my specific responsibilites, I have found that some of the things posted of forums have been helpful and I've incorporated them into what I'm doing.

Hello devs, do you feel it is possible today to create a politically challenging games without suffering major censorship, I guess present-day American values/laws would be the most deciding factor here since it's one country with a huge market. Say in Hollywood for instance, could you imagine anyone making Dr. Strangelove today?
I honestly don't see a problem with it. Political speech is and (hopefully) always will be a protected right of the people in this country. Despite the current arguments about the influence of media of children, I am optimistic that cooler heads will prevail. There is a lot of open criticism and satire of American culture and government in our media that challenges the way things are, and government censorship of media is not a valid concern. Sure, it sounds good in political ad, but I have faith that our right to speech is safe. So, to answer your question, yes, I think that you could make Doctor Strangelove today. Of course, don't forget that Kubrik caught a lot of flak for it when it came out, but history has erased those criticisms in light of the film's significance.

Incidentally, on the subject of politics and games, check out Peacemaker. It's an interesting idea for a game, and it speaks to a couple of different questions in this thread.

How do you feel about being politically incorrect vs. eventual censorship/criticism for it?
It's not something I concern myself with. Censorship isn't an issue, and criticism is a certainty no matter what you do or say.

I noticed that a bunch of you are pretty health conscious, so I am curious, do you guys have your own gym? Or do you guys go to the gym in RIO, or Bally in Kentland or the gold's further down Muddy Branch Rd?
I have a little gym that I built in my basement that has everything that I need. No membership fees for me!

Did the game Zelda influence how you make your free-roaming games today?
I'm very busy today, so I don't have time for the usual morning flood of questions. This one did stick out though, since I was having a conversation just the other day about how The Legend of Zelda was one of the first games I can remember playing that didn't absolutely require the player to take a linear path through it. Very little was communicated to the player in terms of goals beyond "get these widgets", and the entire game was very freeform and exploratory. I think that sometimes it is glossed over for being the revolutionary game that it was.

However, considering that Zelda was one of my favorite favorite NES games, I'd say that yes, it absolutely had an influence on me.

"No sane game designer reads the forums. No matter how sensible a change you make to a game, there will always be a pack of screaming yahoos tearing it apart. If you let those people get into your head, it'll paralyze you." Developers, do you think these are words of wisdom? They're said by Jeff Vogel, an indie RPG maker of such games as Avernum and Geneforge. To some degree, Vogel is right, even if he's overstating his opinion for humorous effect. I think that the deeper point that is worth noting here is that as a developer, you should be aware of the fact that the opinions of the fans who post to and read forums are rarely, if ever, representative of the whole fanbase. It's human nature that we speak up when we are displeased with something, rarely do you hear of someone who took time out of their day to write a five page diatribe on how much they love a particular thing and how happy it made them. No, we save that energy for when something pisses us off. It's important to keep in mind for we brave few who venture onto the forums (No Fred, "fora" is not the plural of "forum").

But, at the same time, there is a lot of value in hearing what the fans who do post on forums have to say. Nothing has or ever will perfect and there is always something that could have been done better. It might even be something that we, as developers, were unaware of. So, there is something to be learned from the critics who inevitably flock to the internet to shout from virtual rooftops about how criminally stupid you are and there is certainly gold to be found in the forums, when you look for it. So, you develop filters to pull out what criticisms are worthwhile and you learn to toss out the rantings of angry illiterates who just like to call you names and threaten to blow up your office.

But, none of you fine people in this thread are like that latter group, are you? :p

How do you distinguish between people that just are very out-spoken and want this or that for X number and reasons and the people who really cares about the game?
Fred got it right: respect. You can say "I didn't like the level scaling in Oblivion, I left that it robbed me of the feeling of progression". Fair enough. I might disagree with you, I might not. But I understand what you're saying, you've expressed it well, and by doing so, you've given me the ability to process what you've said and add that criticism to my work. But if you come at me with "u r so dum 2 make oblivion lvl scales so i hope u get peepee cancer", you go right to the dev/null bin in my brain. That's just how people work. Nobody responds well to people who scream in in their faces in real life, so why should there be an expectation that it would be different online?

So, say what you have to say, but say it well. I'll listen. We're all people, we all have opinions, and no one in game development is a stranger to criticism. We do it to each other all day, every day -- it's part of the job. Intelligent, constructive, and respectful criticism is vital and nothing would improve without it. So, I do invite fans to be a part of that process and I welcome the opinions of people who are interested in making things better.

So, keep posting. I'm listening.

Which matters more to you, a game that sells a lot and makes a lot of money or a game that's great and will be loved, maybe even worshipped by its fans?
What makes you think that those two things are mutually exclusive?

What do you have on your desk? Do you have any figurines or maskots? Books?
I have several lamps, because it's way too dark in this place. A tiny little fan, because it's way too stuffy in here. A bag of pita chips. A Pittsburgh Steelers daily calender. A couple of boxes of Altoids. A bottle of multi-vitamins. My notebook. A bigpunch of documents with notes scribbled all over them. Some movies from NetFlix that I've been meaning to send back for over a year. My cellphone in its charger. Four tiny ships from Battlestar Galactica (Viper mkII, Viper MkVII, Raptot, Cylon Raider). A copy of the Tao Te Ching. A copy of The Elements of Style. My work phone. An issue of The Nation. An issue of Game Developer. My Trollbloods army. Some pens. A coffee press. And finally, several Transformers.

So, anybody got any favorite indie games, rpg or otherwise?
Defcon. I love Defcon so much.

Do you have a dresscode?
As it was explained to me, our dresscode is "please try to cover all the parts that should be covered".

I've been mostly successful in adhering to that rule.

Dunno if this has been asked but what kind of education do you devs have and has it in anyway helped you as a game developer?
I'm a film school dropout. In a certain sense, school did help me. It sat me down and gave me the motivation to write for practice, which is something that I probably wouldn't have done on my own at age 18. Of course, if I had possessed the discipline to make myself write without a teacher telling me to, I could have saved myself a lot of money.

What's your favorite alcoholic drink?
In this order: Scotch, Tequila, Beer. Good beer, mind you. We have a couple of excellent resturantsQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png here in DC that feature hundred of beers on the menu. I've been slowly working my way through the entire list at one of them. I'm about halfway done.

How do you survive sitting your ass on your chair for about 8 hours and in front of the screen?
I survive by doing my best not to be sitting in a chair when I'm not at work.

What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
Star Wars action figures and Transformers. Of course, they're my favorite toys as an adult too.

Does anyone, be honest, make it out of the dungeons(testing) and into the slave pits(development)?
At least two of the developers who are posting in this thread started in QA.

Have you ever referred to the george washingtonQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png monument as "the giant schvance?"
I frequently refer to it as "The Washington Schlong", "The Great White Wang", of "The Phallington Monument".

Favorite quotes?
"The major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur."
- Alfred North Whitehead

"No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck."
- Frederick Douglass

"What do you get with freedom? Excesses. Exploitation. Of course. And what does one say to that? A small price to pay. If you don't like it, don't listen to it, don't read it, don't watch it. Without free communication, you don't have a free society."
- Hugh Hefner

I have to ask though, who makes the most important decisions about the game? Is it the lead Designer or management (suits)? Do you guys come to such decisions together, or is it one man that calls the biggest shots?
I'm obviously not going to go into very much detail here, but the talented people in our management and administration have absolutely no hand in the development of the games here. They recognize that it is our job to make games and their jobs are to sell them, manage the money, save us from the piles of paperwork that come with running a business, and make sure our lights stay on. They are very good businesspeople. There has never been and likely never will be someone from administration down here telling us to change art, change a system design, or anything like that.

So, don't worry, Fallout is safely hidden and protected from evil men and sinister women in suits.

Have you ever used a video game quote in conversation? did the other person know?
Dude, half the conversations I have are in a bizarre language of inside jokes, quotes from games and movies, grunts, and whistles.

Mario or Luigi? Paper or plastic? Boxers or Briefs?
Mario. Luigi is a wannabe chump.
Plastic. Although most aren't aware of it and believe that paper bags are more environmentally friendly, the processing and manufacturing of a paper bag actually uses more petroleum resources than the manufacturing of a plastic bag.
Why choose one? Boxer briefs!

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
I don't drink cider. :)

What give you inspiration, when you need it?
For me, it's actually pretty random. If I'm stuck on something, I'll usually go wander around outside until something strikes me. It can be anything from thinking about what I did this weekend to an interesting cluster of rocks on the ground.

Why did you join the Fallout 3 team, Because of dollars or because you were a fan?
You should look up the Game Developer salary surveys. No one gets into game development for the phat lewts.

Will there be any new drugs in FO3?
Other than the ones in my bloodstream?

Do You Smoke Cigarettes? What Brand?
Oh, hell no. I support public smoking bans, even though they generally run against my philosophies on government. Why? Because I don't like smoking. It's pretty much that simple. If you want to kill yourself and walk around smelling like a dead yak's crotch, feel free. Just keep it out of my face.

Oh, hell no. I support public child bans. Okay, not really, but at this stage of my life kids aren't for me. Maybe some day, but not any time soon.

Ever been busted by the law?
I've had a few run-ins and I've gotten a few bruises to show for it, but I have no record.

I would like to know where you each grew up. Are any of you from a rural area and if so how you like city life that you now are part of. Have any of you been to my great state of Alaska and if not would you like to visit. Any veterans? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
That's three questions. :)

I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania in an old coal mining town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by unemployed miners who were the sons and grandsons of miners. The area was extremely economically depressed after the local mines started shutting down in the 80s. Thinking about it, maybe exploring abandoned mine shafts and coal refineries as a kid helped foster my love of ruined old buildings. Anyway, after high school, I ran as fast as I could to the nearest city and I've refused to come out of them ever since.

I describe myself as a city person, but I imagine that'll change some day. When I get old, I'm planning to build a huge house on the top of a mountain. I'll live there with two huge huskies (named Freki and Geri, of course) and whatever group of humans I deem worthy to join me in my mountain hall. There should be a lake, sea, or ocean reasonably nearby. I'll brew mead, drink with my friends, and play games all day, every day.

Some people retire and become fishermen, I'm planning on becoming a viking.Quoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png

As for Alaska, I've never been there. Actually, I've heard a lot of really great things about Alaska and I would like to visit it someday.

And if I had my choice of anywhere in the world. Well, I think I have to limit it to places I've actually been. So, I think that I'd pick the Highlands of Scotland. Good whiskey, and I can get away with walking around while not wearing any pants.

And last but not least, do you drink coffee and what kind?
Yes. Frequently. And I'm not picky. Run some water over some beans and I'll drink it.

Anyway, in light of my rant about traffic, how much commute do you guys/gals have to do everyday for work? Do you guys/gals enjoy the traffic?
My drive is about twenty minutes, if the traffic gods are feeling magnanimous. I hate traffic. Every second I sit in traffic, I can't help thinking of all of the better ways I could be spending my time. I go through all sort of absurd lengths to shorten my commute. I have about 17 different routes that I take between home and work and I choose which I will take each day based on a complex formula that incorporates many factors including traffic density, time of day, weather, and the probability of a cattle stampede.

What's your favorite local radio station?
I don't really listen to broadcast radio, with the exception of NPR. The music stations just never play any music that I like. However, I do have satellite radio in the car, which I love. On any given trip, I switch between the metal station, the punk station, a few different electronica stations, the blues station, and the comedy station.

Which classic Fallout song do you like more, "Maybe" or "A Kiss to Build a Dream On"?
As a general rule, I'm partial to Mr. Armstrong.

Do you find that understanding how games are put together increases your enjoyment of them or makes you notice the flaws more?
It works both ways, actually. When I spot flaws in games, I'm much more aware of them. But, when there's something that I like about a game, I find that I'm able to appreciate it to a greater degree.

How's that nasty rainstorm you're getting?
I wouldn't know. We work in a vault.

Is Polamalu a god?
Funny story, we have a large wooden Tiki head carved out of a tree trunk in the basement. During football season, we put Polamalu's jersey on the Tiki god to help recharge his magical Samoan cheetah powers.

You never said what your top speed record is...
Curse my speed governor! My top speed record is 133, because my car won't let me go any faster.

What kinda car do you drive?
A Volkswagen GTI. Zoom.

That's one reason I went for the Type-S, governors make me cry.
Ehn, I could remove it if I wanted to, but I honestly don't care that much. I don't race, and I don't really ever need to drive more than 130 mph, so I'm not worried about it. My car is fast enough as it is to get me where I want to be very quickly and living in DC, I'm far more concerned with acceleration than I am with top speed.

Yeah, it's illegal to remove the governersQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png in the US, as far as I know.
I don't think it's illegal (but don't quote me on that), it'll just void your warranty. I like my warranty.

I deffinatelyQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png think we should get all the Fallout 3 bikers together and start a petition for Bethesda to speed things up a bit, due to hazardous lifestyle and the accompanying risk of not getting to play FO3 in time :)

How does that benefit those of us here who do ride? He'll be rushing to get to work and then *bang* we'll hit a bus and that'll just slow the game down.

I like you, finally someone who knows how to get their caffeine.
If I'm not shaking, I'm not awake.

Are there any devs who ride fixies? Any fakengers in there?
I have a modified single speed. Fixies can bite me, I like coasting.

I also wonder how Fizzy feels about the Steelers' chances in the 2007 season now that Tomlin/Arians are actually planning on utilizing not one but TWO tight ends in the red zone. I'm particularly excited about the addition of Daniel "Greater than Moorman" Sepulveda and his killer aussie roll. How do you feel about that pick? The season? J Peezy riding quietly into the night?
I, for one, feel really good about this season. I'm a little nervous about Tomlin's plans for the offense. After the mess that was the 2006 season, I would have liked to have seen more concentration on the O-line. Ben, well, we'll see. Hopefully he can manage not to break any windshields with his head his year. So, the jury is out on offense.

I was sorry to see Joey go, but that's just how the team works. The Steelers would rather have 11 really good players on the field than 10 scrubs and one star, so if a player is chasing cash, they need to go find another team. No hard feelings, Joey made out pretty well in Miami, so I'm sure that he's happy. I'll miss his trash talk though.

As for Sepulveda, I think it was a good choice. Gardocki is getting old and a lot of his kicks were falling short. He was always really good at getting them off quickly, but I think that the special teams will benefit from more power and accuracy from the punter.

See also


Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Erik Caponi @ No Mutants Allowed